Monday, August 22, 2011

FRANCOIS E "FRANK" LAHAY - ab 1829-1862


In the scheme of things, Francois E. “Frank” LaHay lived a short life that really appears like a cipher in among a bunch of relatives. He was my great-grandmother’s first husband. They were married long enough to have two children, but unfortunately within a short period of time he died, and within a couple of years both children died. So there are no living progeny.

From a genealogical standpoint, there’s not much to document about his life, other than a few things I was able to find. But I think there is enough interesting that I should let him take his place among the Immortal Nobodies, even though we will never know what he looked like.

Frank’s father was Toussaint LaHay, and Frank had siblings Eugenie, Martha, Mary, David, and Antoine. The family appears on the 1850 census in St. Genevieve County, Missouri; all show that they were born in Missouri. The only unusual thing is that their last name appears as “Lihaise” and “Lihais.” When I first discovered “Toussaint LaHay” I was surprised to find such an Irish surname connected to the obvious French given name. To my surprise, I was to learn some years later that this LaHay line went back into Canada as Lihais and then further back into Ireland where the name was actually LaHaie. Catholic Church records were used by others to follow this line.

Apparently when Kansas territory opened up for settlement, the Toussaint LaHay family moved from St. Genevieve, to Douglas County, Kansas, where Toussaint and his three sons took a section of land on the the Wakarusa River about eight miles west of Lawrence. In a document held by the Kansas State Historical Society there is mention of the LaHay boys by the author, Henry Hiatt. “Mr. LaHay (referring to Toussaint) had a wife, two sons and two or more daughters. His boys were pro-slavery and rough and always ready to fight….Sometime in 1856 a party of free-state men…robbed his house of furniture, clothing, etc. and burned it to the ground.” The LaHays were Southerners who moved to Kansas for the same reason that the New England Emigrant Aid Society members did – to add their votes to either bring Kansas into the Union as a free or a slave state. This period of time became known as “Bloody Kansas.”

In 1853 the Corel family, originally from southwestern Virginia but more recently from Kansas City, Missouri, also moved to Douglas County. Because of the difficulties experienced in Kansas Territory during that time, only spotty records are available; there is no record of the marriage of Nancy Corel (my great-grandmother) and Frank LaHay. However, in a Civil War Widow’s Pension file held by the National Archives, Nancy writes, “I was prior to my marriage to James S. Dobbins married to Frank E. LaHay on December 19th 1856 near Lawrence, Kansas. Mr. Lahay died on February 13, 1861 (note: this affidavit was done in 1904 and Nancy misremembered the date) and was buried on his father’s place near Lawrence. Frank E. Lahay did not serve in the Army or Navy.”

About the only other records we have are three articles from the Lawrence newspapers:

Lawrence Republican, April 17, 1862: Francois LaHay, 31 years, 3 mos. Of Clinton Twp., Douglas County, died on 9th inst. In Missouri of lung fever.

Kansas Weekly Tribune, February 11, 1864: Died. Ella LaHay, daughter of Mrs. Nancy LaHay, aged 2 years 5 months, 9 days in Clinton Twp., Douglas Co., KS.

Kansas Weekly Tribune, March 3, 1864: Died. Olla (Oliver) LaHay, son of Mrs. Nancy LaHay on March 1, aged 6 years 1 month.

Skip to 1986:

In that year a researcher I’d hired in Lawrence, Kansas sent me a 1972 newspaper article that stated the following:

“The bodies from the LaHay Cemetery probably will be moved to the Clinton Cemetery by December 1, federal officials said today. The moving is necessary because the one-acre tract where several persons were buried during the last century will be covered by the waters of the Clinton Reservoir…..Federal regulations provide that all cemeteries which will be covered by waters impounded by dams must be moved – that the cemeteries not be covered by the flood waters.”

I sent to the Corps of Engineers to get their documentation for this move, and later Jerry and I took a trip back to Kansas to see for ourselves what had transpired. The original tall cemetery marker had been moved to the new cemetery. On one side it said “T. LaHay, d Mar 2, 1868, ae 68 years 2 months. And below that it says “T. LaHay reserved this acre of land during his lifetime for his family cemetery.”

On the other side it says “Frank LaHay, d Apr 9, 1863, ae 34 years.” And under Frank’s name it says “Ollie and Ella, Children of F & N LaHay.” There also is a newer flat marker that simply says “Ollie and Ella LaHay.”

That’s it for Francois “Frank” LaHay. It was a life cut short. Who will remember Frank LaHay? I know he appeared on some deeds, and his name appeared in the report prepared by a House of Representative Committee to investigate the “Troubles in Kansas”. But none of that was significant.

He was not a well-known person, nor was he recorded anywhere either for good or for bad. He left no descendants and no legacy. But he was a part of my great-grandma’s life, and even though he is not my blood relative, I want him to count somewhere. And since he’s truly an immortal nobody, here is where he shall be.

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